At the wheel of the champion
The night before
I must admit that, putting it mildly, the night is for the birds. On the eve of my test, the friendly people from Audi Sport handed me a 14-page pamphlet describing how you can destroy the car by doing something wrong. In a nutshell: avoid vibrations of any kind because a four-cylinder turbo engine does not run nearly as smoothly as the V8 from previous years, so it’s best to never drive it below 6,000 rpm. Never drive with a disengaged or slipping clutch between 3,700 and 4,200 rpm. And should you have to do so anyhow, use the pit limiter.
Next warning: never drive off at half-throttle – either lift completely or go full-throttle. In the pit lane, depress the clutch pedal only at less than 3,300 rpm. And when you stop, apply the clutch, push the neutral button on the steering wheel and then pull the left-hand downshift paddle. Other than that, pay attention to radio messages, especially concerning the pit limiter and ALS – that’s the function that bridges the turbo lag by electronically keeping the engine in high-revving mode. Improperly used, it can overheat the exhaust system and – naturally – cause a lot of damage. As I said: I slept poorly.
When DTM Champion René Rast enters his racing machine the process looks elegant, fluid, completely routine. I, on the other hand, would rather like everyone to look the other way during my efforts of climbing into the car. The safety cell and the very high rocker rail minimise the space you have for worming your way in. But René is a perfect gentleman and clicks off the steering wheel for me. That makes it a little easier – even though I initially get caught with H.A.N.S. on the roof edge.
At some point in time, I wind up sitting in the bucket racing seat – which is rather low in spite of the bolster. Subjectively, the visible horizon is located at the highest point of the bonnet. Of course this is due to the fact that the car’s centre of gravity should be as low as possible, and although I’m not a fan of SUVs, I’d rather be crouching a little higher. Rast hands me the steering wheel into the car. While it’s being attached, there’s an audible ‘click’ and a ‘clack’ as the mechanics are closing the door on the left.
I’m not totally on my own, though, because I can communicate with Davide. “Tyres to the car,” he instructs his colleagues. The mechanics from Audi Sport Team Rosberg unpack the rain tyres that have been preheated to about 60 degrees and fit them in a matter of seconds. There’s some rattling and shaking, and then the air is discharged from the lines to the retractable jacks. Now the Audi RS 5 DTM has ground contact with each of its four wheels. The 2019 DTM championship-winning car is ready to go. Things are getting serious.
The test drive
Done! The car’s well, I’m well and everyone’s happy. René Rast takes back his steering wheel after my test excursion. How it was? Awesome, what else! Almost electrifying – and vibrant because, as I suddenly recall, my left leg kept ‘wandering’. The reason is that, for lack of space, I wasn’t able to rest it next to the clutch pedal (and you’re obviously not allowed to deposit your foot on the clutch pedal), I placed it on the car’s floor. The floor, though, was shaking so much under the high frequencies that I felt as if my leg was wandering all on its own. “That’s right,” Rast agrees with me, “the vibrations can clearly be felt. Maybe that’s why I sometimes park my left foot on top of my throttle foot in the race …” Which, by the way, he was never aware of in the cockpit and only realised whilst watching TV footage.
The night after
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